Thursday, December 17, 2015

Can We Get a Little Help Over Here?

Advent 2nd Sunday - Year C - 2015
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

All this talk of getting reading is wearing me out – and we’re just eight days in.  Everywhere we’ve turned so far in Advent, there’s a voice shouting at us – getting right up in our face, right up in our grill – that voice telling us we have to get ready.  Last week that ‘voice’ was Jesus Himself telling us if we don’t get ready – if we’re not vigilant, standing up straight with our eyes on the horizon – Jesus got right up in our face and told us that if we’re not ready, His coming will catch us like a trap!
Everywhere we’ve turned so far this Advent – the Scripture readings, the prayers of the Mass, the Divine Office – everywhere we’ve turned we’ve heard this voice “crying out” – right in our face – telling us to get ready, and I’m already worn out.  I mean – doesn’t the Church know how busy this time of year is?  I haven’t bought the first Christmas present yet, sent the first card, and I don’t even have a clue what this Advent Angel thing is that the parish staff is doing.  There isn’t a single twinkling light at the rectory yet, not a stocking in sight, and the animals of the manger scene aren’t even unpacked to start gathering around the empty manger. 
You know what I’m talking about.  Our calendars are even more full right now than the rest of the year, and we thought that wasn’t possible.  Parties, gatherings, family coming in or family to go visit.  Work deadlines to meet those end of the year revenue and productivity goals.  Finals, presentations, term papers, research papers, projects, all-nighters, and coffee, lots of coffee.  And what in the world is our Elf on the Shelf going to be up to tomorrow morning?  And in the middle of all that, at the end of Mass today we’re going to ask you to add to the list, because we can’t do Christmas as a parish without your help.
So you can stop telling us already that Christmas is coming and we’ve got to get ready…we know that…and if you knew all the things we had to get done between now and then, maybe you’d back off a bit from talking about ‘lowering the mountains’ of obstacles to real relationship with God in our lives, like finally overcoming that habit or vice.  If you knew how stressed we were about taking care of everything you’d hush all that talk of raising the valleys in our life over which we can’t leap to get closer to God, like carving out some time each day for prayer or trusting God more fully with our lives and our vocations and our future and the futures of those we love most.  Not a single one of us feels like we have any room left in our world right now for straightening out the relationships and situations in our lives that are the winding paths that voice keeps talking about making our journeys to God so long and hard and difficult…
Everywhere we turn that voice is right there – telling us we have to get ready… and we’ve been working so hard all along and it doesn’t seem to be working!  The sins and hurts and resentments we’ve been trying to let go of keep haunting us, and our bad habits and disordered priorities and appetites chase us around like our shadows…and sometimes all this ‘getting ready’ talk just seems pointless because when we’ve tried – when we try – nothing much seems to happen sometimes.
And still – everywhere we turn there’s that voice – that dang voice – right up in our face…prepare the way of the Lord.  Can we get a little help over here? 
Today the voice answers back…you don’t have to do this alone!  Yes, we have to get ready – we have to prepare the way of the Lord or His coming will catch us like a trap, that’s true.  But we don’t have to do it alone.  Did you hear that today?  That same voice adds something new today:  God has commanded the mountains to lower themselves!  God has commanded the valleys to fill themselves and the twists and turns to straighten themselves out “so that we may advance secure in the glory of God,” so that we “may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”, so that we may “see the salvation of God.”
This time of year is busy and full to brimming and sometimes running over to overwhelming, and sometimes we just want to give up.  And right when we cry right back, “We could use a little help over here!” the voice answers back – lovingly, compassionately, tenderly even:  OK.  Help is on the way.
Yes – friends – we do have to prepare the way of the Lord or His coming will catch us like a trap…but we’re not working alone.  Whatever mountain obstacle we’re lowering one teaspoon at a time God has commanded it to be lowered and He’s right there with us digging away.  Whatever valley of indifference or courage or growth we’re trying fill in a drop at a time, Jesus is right there with a fire hose of grace.  Whatever relationships or situations or shame or guilt we’re trying to untangle one strand at a time, He’s with us with the nimble hands of a surgeon freeing us.  He is faithful…He is coming…yes, we have to get ready… but not alone

And so…instead of giving in to being overwhelmed or giving up because of our lack of progress, we pray ever more confidently:  Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus.  And I believe, like Saint Paul I truly believe, that the One who has started this good work in us will bring it to completion.  Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus.  

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